My work is informed by memory and cultural myths recast in a contemporary context. I am an artist from India living in New York. The tension in my work arises from the co-existence of opposing forces fundamental in Indian culture. The Hindu trinity-represented literally as the three gods Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva and metaphysically as the three principles of creation-maintenance-destruction-is core to the cosmology of Hinduism. This tension provides the basis for balancing my formal ceramic practice and conceptual fragmented narratives explored through cross-disciplinary installation.
Aesthetically I am investigating the heterogeneous aspect of beauty and the grotesque. Ideas of decay, metamorphosis, entropy and vanitas are central to my work. My installation Untitled 2005, incorporating mixed media elements of clay, wire and water is a primordial yet futuristic work. The act of incubating-ideas, embryos or entire worlds-suggests a decaying existence headed towards a radical transformation, where the seeds of the future have been sown. In my installation Vanitas, the reflection of wrapped decomposing fruits hung over ceramic bowls filled with what reminds of the blood or essence of the fruits explores the nostalgia of something diminishing. And in my installation His Master's Voice, themes of metamorphosis and marginalization inherent in the consequences of religious fundamentalism are implied through life-sized hybrid ceramic figures focused towards a deified center.
I grew up in Calcutta, India, in a home and culture with a strong emphasis on ritual, practiced with an intrinsic focus on art and philosophy. Scatology and eroticism are the basis of the sacred in Hindu culture, exemplified by the worship of the phallic and vaginal symbols of Shiva and Parvati and the sanctified use of cow dung. I attended a British school which shunned such practices and enforced strict Western beliefs. We were taught to look down on Indian ritual and practice while revering English language and culture as superior. And yet these rituals mesmerized me, becoming a part of my subconscious. My move to New York amplified this cultural dislocation and has informed the conceptual basis of my work.
Formally my work, which is primal yet modernistic in nature, draws from this history, fragmenting and conflating traditions into new worlds that allow the viewer a visceral experience within a present context. My most recent works, Abol Tabol and Supper with a Vulture, build on childhood memories. In the subconscious mind, and in the mind of the child, no distinctions exist between the actual and the fantastic, between memory and magic. Supper with a Vulture is an animated fable that playfully explores entropy and altered perception while concealing a dark center. With childlike innocence, a girl and a vulture sit at a table, lovingly eating a meal together. Soon they begin to devour each other. Abol Tabol is a multimedia installation inspired by the nonsense rhyme of Kolkata's beloved poet Sukumar Ray. The installation reinvents the poet's half-human, half-animal creatures and combines them with a medley of Kolkata street sounds in a gently satirical commentary on social mores. This awareness of how myth and culture can be reexamined in new ways will continue to be engaged in my work.
Nidhi Jalan is an Indian artist currently living and working between New York and Calcutta.
2004 - 2007 Hunter College, New York M.F.A. (Sculpture)
2003 - 2004 Excelsior College, New York B.A. (Liberal Arts)
1989 - 1991 School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Ceramics sculpture andpapermaking
1987 - 1989 Calcutta University, Calcutta, India Commerce
Apprenticeships & Residencies
2009 European Ceramic Work Centre, Hertogenbosch, NL
2008 - 2009 Hunter College, New York, NY
2007 - 2008 Abrons Art Center, Henry Street Settlement, New York, NY
2007 The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME
2001 Ray Meeker, Pondicherry and Kodai Kanal, India Ceramics
2000 "Art in Life", workshop by CIMA Art Gallery, Kolkata, India
1999 Michel Hutin, Auroville, India Ceramics
2009 Working With Clay (3rd edition), Susan Peterson and Jan Peterson
2007 Medal of the Faenza Rotary Club, MIC Faenza
2009 'Anomalies', Rossi and Rossi, London, UK
2006 Zankel Gift Award, Hunter College
2009 'Have we moved away from what's hotter than curry yet', Gallery OED, Cochin, India
2009 'This place, that place', Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY
2008 'One by one the stars appeared..', Carriage House, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY
2008 'Abol Tabol', Akar Prakar, Calcutta, India (solo exhibition)
2007 'Insider', Bodhi Art, Mumbai, India
2007 '55º Premio Faenza', Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Italy (International competition of contemporary ceramic art)
2006 M.F.A.Thesis Show, Hunter College/Times Square Gallery, New York,NY
2005 MA select MFA's, Hunter College/Times Square Gallery, New York, NY
2001 Birla Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta, (solo exhibition)
2000 Oxford Gallery, Calcutta, India
1998 AIFACS, New Delhi, India
1996 Birla Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta, India (solo exhibition)
1994 Bajaj Art Gallery, Mumbai, India